When you say ‘sports nutrition’, the images conjured in your head are not always positive: bodybuilders buying protein powders in dingy gyms and men (always men) with frankly terrifying looking muscles putting who-knows-what weird substances into their body.
That was certainly the case when The Whitehouse Consultancy brought a handful of small companies together to form ESSNA, the European Specialist Sports Nutrition Alliance, in 2003. It was also the image that the European Commission had in mind when they were drawing up tight new rules that year to regulate the sports nutrition market - rules that ESSNA, once formed, were able to successfully influence and prevent from ever being implemented.
In 2003 ESSNA worked to ensure that overweening, burdensome regulation did not hamper the progress of a young, ever-innovating industry - a lobbying effort that has paid off. The development of the sports nutrition market in the EU over the past decade or so has been astonishing, only matched by the growth of ESSNA, which is now undoubtedly the leading trade association in the sector.
ESSNA has now grown to encompass over 50 members with a presence in virtually all EU Member States, and is still growing fast. We offer our members more than just a powerful voice at the European policy-making table - through our bespoke regulatory advice, our PR and social media campaign and our work with enforcement bodies across Europe, we work to build relationships so that legislators, enforcers and consumers see ESSNA members as responsible, safe companies.
Since the Commission agreed to drop its plans for a specific sports nutrition regulation over a decade ago, ESSNA has been working closely with European lawmakers - in London, Brussels and across the 28 different Member States - to draw up a regulatory framework that will protect consumers and allow businesses to grow. Autumn 2015 will see the Commission release a report on the need for future regulation of sports nutrition, and ESSNA is confident that the Commission will conclude that sports food is indeed just a normal food - and so there should be no special laws legislating the sector.
This outcome is one that ESSNA has long pressed for. It will give consumers the best of both worlds - an extremely high level of protection combined with innovative, world-leading companies giving the average consumer the widest possible choice of products to help themselves live a sporty, active lifestyle.
To mark this dramatic change, the Alliance will shortly hold its first ever sports nutrition conference in Brussels on 9th and 10th September to introduce regulators to our members, hear from key individuals involved in policy-making and discuss some of our members hopes, concerns and questions as we move to a dramatic change in how sports nutrition is regulated.
The limited numbers of free tickets to the Conference have nearly gone, so if you are interested in learning more, we would encourage you to register via ESSNA.com (direct link) as soon as possible. You can also learn more about ESSNA on our Twitter page.